US airline operator Delta Air Lines has agreed to merge its private-jet business with aviation company Wheels Up.

The transaction is expected to create one of the world’s largest owned and managed fleet of private aircraft.

Under the agreement, Wheels Up’s membership programmes, digital platform and lifestyle experiences will be integrated with Delta Private Jets.

Once complete, the merger will see Wheels Up own a fleet of over 190 private aircraft, along with 8,000 members and customers.

The airline will also hold an equity position in Wheels Up.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said: “This ground-breaking partnership will democratise private aviation, making the convenience of private jet travel accessible to more consumers.”

“Wheels Up’s lifestyle experiences and innovative digital platform, combined with the scale and service of Delta Private Jets, helps further Delta’s mission of connecting people and communities worldwide through travel.

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“This agreement is the latest step in Delta’s ongoing effort to build partnerships that extend Delta’s brand beyond its core business.”

The transaction is based on the receipt of regulatory approval from the government and meeting other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close early next year.

Meanwhile, Delta Private Jets and Wheels Up will continue to serve their respective existing employees, customers, members, partners and vendors.

The two companies have not disclosed the financial terms of the transaction, however, the deal will not impact Delta’s 2019 financial guidance.

Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter said: “The combination of Wheels Up and Delta Private Jets, along with the partnership commitments between Delta and Wheels Up, aligns with our growth objectives and vision of building a platform that will make private flying and the private flying lifestyle accessible to significantly more individuals and businesses in the US and around the world.”